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S. Sudan rebel leader announces return

Fred Muvunyi February 26, 2016

South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar has told DW he is looking forward to returning to the capital Juba in a final step towards implementing last year's peace agreement. He was re-appointed vice president this month.

Südsudan Rebellenführer Riek Machar
Image: Reuters/T. Negeri

Rebel leader Riek Machar has been enmeshed in a civil war with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir for the last two years. He told DW of his plans one day after visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the parties in conflict to respect the terms of a peace agreement.

Ban appealed to both Machar and Kiir to put peace above politics and establish a transitional government of national unity. He also said the government had responsibilities to protect the population, which has been suffering from violence, mass displacements and hunger.

Tens of thousands have died and at least two million people have been forced from their homes since fighting broke out in South Sudan in December 2013.

DW: The UN Secretary General has said you must respect the terms of the peace agreement that you both signed in August 2015. Are you still committed to that peace deal?

Riek Machar: Definitely yes, we are committed to implement the peace agreement, we are waiting for the demilitarization of Juba city and the deployment of the forces stipulated in the agreement. Once this is done, I personally will go to Juba then we will form a transitional government of national unity. We are committed to the peace agreement and it's the only way out for resolving this conflict.

You were officially appointed by Salva Kiir as his vice president but you haven't yet taken up the post. Is the demilitarization the only condition left to be fulfilled before you to return to Juba?

What I am saying is not out of the blue, the peace agreement says before the government is formed, Juba will be demilitarized then forces stipulated in the agreement will be deployed. It's not of my making, it's a prerequisite.

What have you done on your part as far as this deployment is concerned, are you planning to send your forces in Juba?

There was a logistical problem, but it is now partially resolved by the US, UK and Norway. We are waiting for this to be realized on the ground so that some of these troops, 1370 [in number], will be flown to Juba. Once they are flown to Juba, I will follow.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has said he will go ahead and announce a transitional government whether you make it to Juba or not. Will you accept that?

This can not be a transitional government, it will be mounting the same government he has now. I think he has abandoned this idea already because the international community has restrained him from implementing that idea.

Do you have a timeline for when you will be sending your troops to Juba?

I have not yet been given a timetable to when our troops will be flown to Juba. The joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission which is headed by the former president of Botswana Festus Mogae has yet to inform us but I want to be in Juba by mid-March 2016 if all goes well.

What can you tell South Sudanese who have been suffering because of disagreements between yourself and President Salva Kiir?

It is unfortunate that the war has erupted in South Sudan, we did not design that. We don't want war, we want peace. We want the people of South Sudan to support peace. I'm ready to implement the peace agreement and hopefully very soon the transitional government will be formed and all this will be history. We shall start a new beginning of peace and stability.

Riek Machar was re-appointed vice president of South Sudan in February 2016. He held the post previously from 2011 until July 2013 when he was fired by President Salva Kiir.

Interview: Fred Muvunyi